Last week, I had the privilege of returning to Niger, where I served with CURE for seven years at the CURE Hospital des Enfants in the capital city of Niamey (CURE Niger). It has been almost a year since our family left Niger, and it was wonderful to have the chance to visit Niamey, reconnect with friends, and see the great work that is being done at the hospital. During this trip, we celebrated the hospital’s 9th anniversary. It has been amazing to reflect on everything that has happened there since the hospital opened in 2010.
This past year, there have been a lot of changes in Niger, and some major construction projects have left some parts of Niamey almost unrecognizable. As soon as I arrived, I was amazed by the new airport. I wasn’t sure I was in the right place! I also had the chance to visit the new Radisson Hotel, which is now the tallest building in Niamey. It is astounding to see all the changes that have taken place in such a short amount of time, and it is truly inspiring!
The same is true of CURE Niger. A lot of progress has been made, to the hospital, over the past year, and it shows! It was very exciting to be there and see all of it firsthand! Being at the hospital was a good reminder that we can accomplish great things when we are willing to work faithfully and consistently, showing up every day, even on the days when we are tired or discouraged and don’t see progress. Upon reflection, I realized that extraordinary things can be done through hard work and sheer determination. That is what struck me most while at the hospital because that is what the hospital staff does. They accomplish extraordinary things just by showing up and performing their daily activities. It is difficult for them to see the progress being made because it is unfolding slowing before them, but for me, the transformation in just 12 months was incredible!
I enjoyed seeing the new solar panels at CURE Niger. The project was funded by USAID and is such a great example of renewable energy. To protect the solar panels, the government of Niger has generously given the hospital an extra plot of land which is now being converted into a wonderful garden! This extra land opens up even more possibilities for the hospital to serve patients and to continue to grow.
There has also been a lot of work done to repaint and reinforce the buildings, and a huge effort has been made to plant trees and shrubs all around the hospital. This has changed the landscape and created a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert. The hospital is now surrounded by the color green, which is appropriate as it symbolizes growth and hope and happens to be the logo color for CURE!
Finally, I was encouraged by seeing the initiative to make the hospital more accessible to people with disabilities. This is an ongoing project, but it has already made a huge difference for the patients at the hospital. Our partners CBM International performed an accessibility audit of the hospital, and many of their recommendations are being implemented. I was excited to see that all of the hospital buildings are now connected by sidewalks with ramps and hand-rails! There is still a lot of work to do, but it is off to a great start!
These changes make the hospital more accessible (the door is open) and inclusive (you are invited) for patients. This is important to CURE Niger and across the CURE network. We treat patients with disabilities that have often been excluded, rejected, and had to face stigmatization. They need more than surgery to heal. We seek to bring healing to our patients, both physically and emotionally, by showing them God’s love. In Matthew 19:14 NIV, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” We strive to tell our patients about Jesus and show them His love to provide them with holistic healing.
At the anniversary celebration, we had a great meal. It was a feast! It filled my heart with joy to be apart of this banquet table with room for all. Everyone was invited to come and join, especially those who have been rejected elsewhere. Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, an organization that helps those with intellectual disabilities, writes that the idea of a banquet or feast is fundamental to L’Arche, especially the passage in Luke 14:12-14. In his book, Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness, Vanier refers to the Luke passage when he states that when you have a feast you should not invite “the members of your clan, members of your family, your brothers, your sisters, your rich neighbors, and your friends” but rather “the poor, the lame, the disabled and the blind. Invite those who are excluded, and you shall be blessed.”
In the same chapter in Luke, we see the parable of the Great Banquet, when a man prepares a great feast and invites many guests. However, when the guests do not come, he calls for his servant to “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” (Luke 14:21 NIV). This was a total subversion of a typical feast. In her book, Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church, Bethany McKinney Fox writes, “In his actions of healing and receiving anyone into the kingdom of God – particularly those who because of sickness or marked impurity were excluded – he [Jesus] was bursting the boundaries beyond the established ways of perceiving and treating people.”
Inclusion has always been an important part of the work that CURE does, and it is encouraging to see it pursued in such an intentional way at our hospital in Niger. It is an essential part of the healing process for our patients, many of whom have undergone emotional trauma due to their condition or disability. Ultimately, that is the work that CURE sets out to do, to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. It has been a great privilege to do this work in Niger for the past 9 years, and we look forward to many more years of healing to come.